Did you know my family is from Austria? It’s true!
Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I emailed the Austrian consulate in New York City and inquired about obtaining dual citizenship through my maternal grandmother. I wanted to escape the United States of America once and for all.
See: My grandmother survived World War II, and had to escape Europe after the war, what with her country being in total disarray. Her house had been bombed out during the air raids, and she had to hide with her mother until the Russians liberated Vienna from the Nazis. Worst of all, her father, my great-grandfather, had been captured by the Gestapo and murdered at Auschwitz, on account of his being half Jewish, although he was a practicing Christian. It was a real sadness.
She went to San Francisco to stay with her aunt, and learned English in something like six months. She ended up living all over the world with my grandfather, but they eventually settled in Virginia (which is how I ended up being born there (lol)). And because she loved Austria so much, and having many cousins there still, she visited once or twice a year up until the final years of her life. I accompanied her to Vienna one Christmas and she showed me all the places she had lived, and where her friends and parents’ friends had lived. It was amazing!
When she died in 2018, I told my family I would like for my sister and I to take her remains back to Vienna. She always deeply identified with her Austrian heritage, and I knew that if she had known she would have ended up there again one day, she would have been very happy. That October we really did fly over there and do just that. We committed her to the deep in her cousin’s flower garden in the countryside, where she always stayed when she visited. My grandmother loved Vienna and she loved flowers. It seemed like the best place for her mortal remains to be interred.
While I was there I thought it would be nice if I could declare citizenship and reclaim my own Austrian-ness. And I remembered what the consulate had told me years earlier: that even though my grandmother was Austrian born and raised, persecuted and forced to flee her homeland, I would not be able to obtain a passport through her lineage, what with Austria not allowing dual citizenship. What a drag. It would have been my ticket to very easily moving to Berlin, which I did end up doing a year and two months later, and which was made many times more difficult because I did not have that passport. I endeavored to go back one day, figuring I’d find some other way around it all, even though I knew that meant mountains of German bureaucracy and paperwork. I sighed and got on with my life (and then The Virus came).
WELL GUESS WHAT: The light from THE LORD ABOVE has finally shone down upon me, because in September the Parliament of the Republic of Austria officially extended citizenship to descendants of Nazi persecution. Hey! I’m in that group!! So of course my sister and I are barreling full-speed through the process of obtaining Austrian citizenship and Austrian passports. I mean, an Austrian passport is worth a million dollars, as far as I’m concerned. I’m gonna have dual citizenship, which apparently not even Austrian citizens can get. I’ll be able to vote and everything. And as a newly-minted citizen of the EU, I can legally travel / live / work freely in all twenty-eight EU countries. Whoa!! Though it is optional, we have decided to attend our citizenship swearing-in ceremony thing at the Austrian embassy as soon as the deal is done. Why not? And on that blesséd day, I will, whether I want to or not, make the exact same face I made on some beautiful day in Vienna two and half years ago now, which is a sort of sharky Jack Nicholson grin, ALL THE WHILE chiefin on an invisible doob:
And then I reckon I’ll go back to Berlin at some point in the near future, impervious to all the horseshit red-tape a non-citizen like my former self was forced to suffer through. Yeah baby!!
OK to be continued~ ☆彡